Larger-than-life portrayals of love, romance, and drama have always been Bollywood’s niche. While there have been many female characters in Hindi cinema who left behind a mark, challenged gender norms, and shattered stereotypes, we also see many instances where strong and ambitious women, capable of touching the stars, have been reduced to mere love interests.
In today’s article, we will go through eight such times, when Bollywood reduced its ambitious female characters into love interests, completely sidelining their aspirations and goals for the sake of romantic subplots. Without further ado, let’s delve in!
1. Shraddha Kapoor in Tu Jhoothi Main Makkaar (TJMM)
Okay, so finally a Luv Ranjan movie with an ambitious female character, one with identity and individuality. The film had a lot to offer. And it almost did, the primary dealbreaker being the last 15 minutes of the movie. In those last 15 minutes, Shraddha Kapoor’s character’s identity seemed to undergo a huge shift. She abandoned her aspirations of owning a house and leading a more private life, while suddenly becoming a pro-joint family from an anti-joint family. It seriously makes no sense.
2. Katrina Kaif in Namaste London
Namaste London does not only romanticize life in rural India but also portrays women in a manner that is downright unacceptable. The father character, depicted by Rishi Kapoor, is not-so-righteous and shows disrespect to his wife right from the beginning, and also forces his daughter, played by Katrina Kaif, to marry a total stranger.
Jazz, played by Katrina, is initially shown as the villain when she pulls off a trick, and whoa! The film suddenly perpetuates the stereotype of West NRI desis that is often criticized by the Indian diaspora. Jazz just wants to live a life on her own terms, but, that, apparently, isn’t possible, and so, she has to give up on all her aspirations and agree to lead a life in an Indian village with Akshay Kumar’s character, who initially said he didn’t know English. This sudden shift in character has definitely left many confused.
3. Deepika Padukone in Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani
At the beginning of the movie, Naina, played by Deepika Padukone, is the protagonist, a medico who is ambitious but also exhausted from her lifelong focus on studies. She embarks on a trekking trip, which will prove to be life-changing for her, and falls in love there but chooses not to confess her feelings.
Next, the movie fast-forwards to seven years later, and Bunny’s (Ranbir Kapoor) life abroad pushes Naina off the center stage. We are informed that Naina now works in a clinic, having finished medical school. What is this supposed to signify? Why are Bunny’s ambitions prominently displayed throughout the movie, while it seems as though Naina has no other desires apart from being with Bunny? Her true struggle is moving on from a few-day trip with Bunny and not pursuing a career as a doctor.
4. Asin in Ghajini
In Ghajini, Aamir Khan plays the role of Sanjay Singhania, the chairman of a renowned telecom company. Kalpana, played by Asin, however, is mostly oblivious to Sanjay’s identity before she creates a love story between them. Even after being portrayed as an independent woman struggling to build her career, Kalpana’s portrayal seems very unrealistic.
Instead of trying to find out what Sanjay looks like and trying to find out more about his personal life, all she does is give up her aspirations to become Sanjay’s love interest. That’s not fair!
5. Anushka Sharma in Jab Tak Hai Jaan
We remember Akira from Jab Tak Hai Jaan, portrayed by Anushka Sharma, as an independent, quirky, and free-spirited documentary filmmaker who falls in love with Samar, a bomb defuser for the Indian Army, who lives life on the edge.
Akira discovers herself in a new light after her encounter with Samar but appears to get consumed by her love for him, and becomes more focused on aiding his personal growth and helping him reunite with his long-lost love. What was the purpose of introducing Akira as an ambitious and independent woman, if all she exited the film was as a mere plot device to fulfill Samar’s love story?
6. Deepika Padukone in Cocktail
Veronica from Cocktail, played by Deepika Padukone, is remembered by many as a free-spirited and affluent woman from London who engages in a no-strings-attached relationship with Gautam. She also takes in a complete stranger, though in need, Meera, and offers her a place to stay. However, when Gautam’s traditional parents enter the picture, he introduces Meera, who fits the traditional mold his parents prefer, as his partner.
As one would have expected, Veronica is then shown trying to change her personality to become a more “traditional and Sanskaari” Indian woman, which pleases Gautam’s parents. But Gautam ultimately feels like cheating on Veronica, so he does! He dates her best friend instead, and the movie ends with Veronica selflessly forgiving her friends, helping Gautam locate her, and supporting their relationship.
7. Deepika Padukone in Tamasha
Tara, Deepika Padukone’s character in Tamasha, is portrayed as having an unnatural fixation on saving Ved from himself. While we see the movie delving into a few complex themes, Tara’s character has been a point of contention among viewers. While some believe that Tara genuinely loved Ved and supported him in dealing with his inner turmoil, others see her as yet another example of Bollywood’s manic pixie dream girl trope.
Before Ved’s re-entry into her life, Tara’s career is briefly touched upon and we learn that she is a very successful businesswoman. But then enters Ved, and her career takes a backseat as soon as Ved reveals his true identity. Tara then buries her aspirations and becomes unnaturally fixated on helping Ved rediscover himself.
8. Alia Bhatt in Student of the Year
Shanaya from Student of the Year, played by Alia Bhatt, initially competes for the SOTY trophy but has to abandon the competition when she becomes confused between two guys. While Student of the Year held no expectations in itself, Shanaya seemed like a promising character. But alas, how wrong we were! Shanaya’s character briefly displays a modicum of ambition in her pursuit of the trophy, initially.
However, the pressure of choosing between two guys seems to be too much for her, and she leaves the dance battle midway. Beyond her relationship with the two guys, the film does not offer much depth to her character, not even exploring her struggles at home fully. For a brief moment, it does seem like she is competing for something, but you will be disappointed to know that the film made her quit the competition ultimately, putting a dramatic end to this mortification of a movie.
Right from businesswomen to journalists, these women had the potential to be trailblazers, but this potential was sacrificed for them being arm candy for their male counterparts. We hope you found today’s article eye-opening. Keep following us for more such articles!